Disclaimer: Naruto and its characters belong to Masashi Kishimoto

"Here," the honey blonde insists, pushing a small white envelope into the hands of the pinkette.

"What's this?" Sakura wonders aloud.

"Consider it an early morning Valentine's Day gift... Enjoy your day off," her shisho says curtly, turning on her heel to make a brisk exit.

Time off? Sakura backpedals, quickly tearing into the envelope. Eyes glued to the paper, she can hardly believe what she's seeing. A revised schedule reveals her patients are now shifted over to her former Sensei, the very one who has been steadily working to DECREASE her hours and head into retirement, NOT increase them!

"Hold up!" Sakura shouts, running to catch up with the Sannin. "What's the catch?"

Tsunade stills. "No catch, Like I said. It's a gift," she replies seriously.

Sakura's eyebrows furrow. It's a known fact, absolutely NO ONE, EVER offers to work extra hours during any holiday, big or small. Valentine's Day isn't the most popular holiday to have off, but it iS a holiday, and one there is no overtime pay for. Her mind searches for a possible reason for this generosity, but it finds none. And despite knowing it's foolish not to just snatch the opportunity and run, something about this doesn't feel right. There's got to be more to it, so she pushes and asks... "Why?"

All at once, Tsunade's demeanor changes, and the look of hurt in her eyes nearly makes Sakura want to take back her question. An uncomfortable pause settles in, but Sakura waits for an answer, so Tsunade finally relents.

"Sakura, today is yet another Valentine's Day that will pass without my Dan. Instead of wallowing, however, this year I've decided to spend it helping to heal people instead. If I were to spend the day alone, all I'd think about is how I couldn't save him," she shares with an unsteady voice, "but it will be different if I'm here. Accept the offer," she encourages. "The schedule swap will not only help me get through the day, but it will be good for you too. It's no secret you've been working nonstop since Christmas, so take the day off to spend some quality time with S...Sarada," she finishes, holding her tongue, as she corrects her train of thought from Sakura's husband and shifts the conversation to their daughter. "What do you say?"

While Tsunade mentally kicks herself for her scrambled thoughts and the almost mention of the Uchiha, Sakura ruminates on her confession. She knows after Dan's passing, her shisho never found love with another, and he holds her heart in ways no one can understand. Her own husband hasn't been around for awhile, but his absence pales to Tsunade having lost her soulmate permanently. This offer has benefits to help both of them get through this celebratory day for lovers. Plus, extra time with Sarada really would be a special treat. Maybe now she can finally get around to keeping her promise about helping her make giri chocolates..."Are you sure about this?" Sakura asks.

"I am. For once, do something special for yourself," Tsunade tells her.

"I.. " Sakura is hesitant, but the gift of free time is practically unheard of in their line of work. "Okay," She finds herself saying instead, "But if you need help..."

"Sakura, please. Don't forget I once ran this place, and I'm no slouch. The hospital will survive without you for a day."

"Shishou... "

"Again, the day is young dear, and you're wasting time," Tsunade points out. "Now, go!" she commands.

"I... thank you," Sakura acknowledges before over thinking things. "Thank you!"

Tsunade smiles knowing this decision may be the magic salve for which gentle healing can begin.

The walk home in broad daylight is refreshing and the unexpected gift of free time has Sakura in a good mood. Today, Akimichi Karui is taking Sarada to have yakiniku with her daughter, Chōchō, after the Academy gets out. It will follow with a friendly meet at her place, so Sarada will be occupied for awhile. She's grateful Karui often includes her daughter in her plans, and today she'd like to return the favor, so she sends a clone to deliver a message to have the girls come over later that afternoon for a little surprise. Sarada had asked if they could make giri chocolates earlier in the week, and it's the perfect day to fulfill that wish.

In the meantime, Sakura fishes out the recipe she stored in her wallet and heads straight for the shopping district. Locating the new specialty store in town, she heads in to purchase the ingredients she needs.

"Charcoal chocolate. Cocoa butter. Virgin coconut oil. Agave syrup. Charcoal powder...And last but not least, whipping cream! Perfect!" With a smile, everything makes it into her basket, and Sakura beelines it to the cash register. Thankfully it isn't too crowded first thing in morning, so checkout is a breeze. With bags in hand, there's a spring to her step, and she's back home in no time.

To prepare for the afternoon's activities, Sakura clears an area for the girls to work, makes herself a sandwich, and begins digging through the cupboards to locate her chocolate molds. Behind some old cookbooks, she spots her heart-shaped trays in the far recesses of the cabinet and smiles. Goodness it has been ages since she's used them! Truth be told, she can't quite remember the last time she did. Humming happily, she pulls them out, and surprise registers when she discovers a small white paper stuffed into one of the dusty wells.

"What is this?" she wonders.

Carefully unfolding it, disbelief paralyzes her when her eyes recognize the neat script.

For you. By the lake.

錯誤 (Sakugo) (note: a strikethrough is meant to run through it)

Staring at the paper to read it again, Sakura rubs her fingers together just to make sure the note genuinely exists. When the paper crinkles, she stands a little straighter. This all seems like a dream and yet... it's real!

After the initial shock fades, a smile tugs at her lips. Goodness it's been so long, she'd nearly forgotten all about that nickname of his: Sakugo: short for -Sakura no Goshujin- or Sakura's husband. It was a name Sasuke self-adopted during their journey together whenever they stayed in civilian territory. Back then, Uchiha Sasuke was notorious in the Shinobi world, but when out among the rural commoners, he found a simple way to stay anonymous. The poorer villagers kept to themselves and did not often follow the happenings of the ninja world. Additionally, Sasuke himself, seldom spoke, so if and when introductions were necessary, he would simply state that he was Sakura's husband, or told them to use Sakugo for short. She'd followed his lead and did the same, so no one in those small villages they traveled through, ever did catch his name. It was soley used as a verbal nickname back then, but it was amusing how he'd used it here. Written this way, the characters could mean "mistake," and with a slash though it, "no mistake."

Goodness! This is a note from Sasuke, that husband of hers, on a secret Mission. The very one she hasn't seen nor heard from in several years!

The thrill of the find provides a rush, but suddenly she's puzzled. Why in the world is this here? It takes some thinking but then it occurs to her that after Sarada was born, she was nesting heavily, and diligently trying hard to improve her domestic skills. She was new to all of it, but in those early years she made a sincere effort to put little homemade touches into the holidays, including Valentine's Day, to keep them special. Of course, much of that stopped after Sasuke left on his Mission and she got busier, but happiness bloomed, knowing he must have assumed she'd continue making chocolates every Valentine's Day, even after he'd left. Little did he know there was no reason for her to do so, not when the love of her life was so far away. In the years that passed, simple store bought chocolates were easier to manage for friends, and it wasn't until Sarada wanted to learn how to make giri chocolates this year, did she think to search the cabinets and bring out her heart-shaped molds.

That said, she can't believe her luck with this find. This note gave her a newfound link to her husband. All at once her world brightens and she can hardly contain her joy! Without wasting a second, Sakura swallows down the remainders of her sandwich, grabs her cloak, and makes a mad dash for the door. Glancing at the clock, she notes the time. Sarada and Chōchō aren't due to come over until the late afternoon. 'The Lake.' It isn't close, but it isn't not too far away either, and if she doesn't dawdle, there should be enough time to visit. She knows of only one lake it could be, and beyond giddy, the next thing she knows, she is sprinting as fast as she can, away from Konoha.

Heart pounding from excitement, the familiar place comes into view. Without wasting a second, she saunters over to an area of overgrown bushes and pauses. Time has changed the look of the land, but she circles the area and prods her memory for remaining clues. It's been years, but as soon as she spots the old garbled tree with a familiar knot, her eyes sparkle with recognition. This is it! Taking out a kunai, she shears through the dense thicket and carves a pathway down to the lake's shore.

In twelve paces or so, Sakura finds what she was hoping to locate. With practiced ease, she releases the genjutsu, and an old log materializes before her. To anyone else it's nothing special, just a slab of wood, but to Sakura it is so much more. This is 'their' log, the one that that often served as a bench for the two of them. Sasuke had hauled it over and set it beside the lake the very first day he'd brought her here, and they'd continued to utilize it during other times they would stop by.

At first, it seemed like an odd place to visit. That is, until she discovered if you squinted hard enough, you could make out the Uchiha lands on the other side of the water, at the Land of Fire border. After that, while Sasuke gazed in its direction silently thinking, Sakura would daydream about the future with him on the opposite side of said lake where the Uchiha District once lay. In watching him, she knew Sasuke missed his family, and although no words were exchanged, she wanted to believe coming to this place helped him to find a little peace, and having her there by his side let him know there was a future there for him... for them.

Taking in a breath of fresh air, she enjoys the serenity of their special spot once again, and with happiness closes her eyes to allow the memories to flood back...

They were young and in love, just newly married when he's first brought her to the lake. Nervous excitement still thrummed through her when alone with him, but after a few moments of silence, she could tell he was preoccupied, so she settled down. While he whittled the wood of the log deep in thought, she fiddled with the reeds near the shore. Eventually she became entranced by the peacefulness of the place and entertained herself watching the wildlife around them. The antics of a flock of birds was particularly fun to watch, and soon she was in her own little world. It wasn't until he spoke did she startle.

"Uchiha-san," he had said, interrupting her musings. Stunned, she remained quiet. Are you... missing your mother? she wondered. Concerned, she eyed him, but to her surprise his lips turned upward. "You," he had clarified with a chuckle, and that's when it dawned on her.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, giggling out of embarrassment. "That's right." She was indeed the bearer of his surname. It had only been a few days of being man and wife and she wasn't used to the title.

He then took her hand and brushed her fingertips over the ridges of his finished carving, eliciting a smile. Right in the middle of the log, he'd meticulously carved the Uchiha crest, a small fan, to depict their special spot.

"Not just you." She referenced the surname and the crest, as she gazed into his eyes. "Us," she had corrected.

"Us," he agreed, happiness woven into his features, as he kissed her.

Opening her eyes, she moves closer to the shore to take a seat on 'their' log, and immediately notices what's missing. How can that be? It's the same log but... Oh wait. "Kai," she whispers, and beams when the intricately carved fan appears. Gently brushing her fingers over it, it's minute but she observes a ripple in reality. Catching on, she puts her fingers together again and releases a third, more complex genjutsu, This time as true reality's blur begins to focus, her breath catches. There, before her, sheltered by the thicket, is a beautiful peony plant, swaying in the breeze. Its roots are near the water and its blossoms are in full bloom. It almost doesn't look real, only it is!

Oh my! What a heavenly surprise!

Its delicate petals are a sight to behold and there is no missing the large pink ribbon tied around one of its branches. Just as she reaches to touch it, she smiles. Carefully carved just above the ribbon are the characters for Sakugo with a slash though them, leaving no doubt, this precious gift was left for her from the one and only man she's ever loved.

Eyes shimmering, she's truly touched with the meaningful gift and the incredible work that must have gone into it.


It's beyond wonderful her dear husband hadn't forgotten that peonies were a fast favorite of hers after their journey together, and of course of the precious reason why:

"This garden is very special to me," the monk that married them had said. "These particular flowers, called peonies, were originally brought by fellow monk and scholar, Kobo-Daishi to our temple. If you don't already know, not only do they have healing properties, but legend has it, they bring beauty and tranquility with them. It is my pleasure to offer a specially prepared tea from its petals for you on this most auspicious day to commemorate your union. Congratulations to the both of you! I'll have you know, you're the first couple I have ever married!"

In her lifetime, there was no purer love, than that felt after their wedding ceremony. That very day was one of the best days of her life, and the way they had gazed into each other's eyes and savored the shared tea was a moment emblazoned in her memory forever.

The warmth the memories bring about, suddenly inspire her. With a kunai at the ready, she clips off a few of the global buds, ties them together with the pink ribbon, and enjoys one last moment of the magnificent view before sending a silent thank you to Sasuke. Carefully restoring the genjutsu, and covering her tracks, she makes her way home in a flash.

"Tadaima?" Sarada questions as she sees the light on when she enters her home through the front door. As soon as she sees her mother though, she squeals with excitement. "Whoa, what's going on Mama? I can't believe it! Akimichi-san wasn't lying. You actually came home early! What's the special occasion?" She asks while noting the flowers in a vase nearby.

"Sarada, can't a Mom take off early to make chocolates with her favorite girl?" Sakura replies, as she ties on her apron and makes her way over to give her daughter a hug.

"Seriously?" Sarada holds back her shock. "Oh my gosh, we're making homemade chocolates? Like now? This is great! Thanks, Mama!" Sarada crows, immediately running back to open the front door. "Hey Chōchō," she signals to her friend. "Come on in. Your Mom was right. The lights are on because Mama came home early and she said she wants to make chocolates with us. Let's wash up so we can get started!"

Twenty minutes pass and the two friends laugh and tell stories as their melted chocolate confections are carefully poured into the heart-shaped containers and placed in the refrigerator. While the confections set, Chōchō and Sarada decorate paper boxes to put them in, and Sakura comes over to serve them some peony tea.

"So, who are you giving your chocolates to?" Chōchō asks Sarada.

"Mama, you, Boruto, Mitsuki, and Konohamaru Sensei of course. If there's extras maybe even to your team and Mama's old team too."

"Good idea," Sakura comments.

Suddenly Sarada's eyebrows knit together.

"Mama?" she inquires.


"Where did those flowers come from?" She points to the delicate peonies in a vase wrapped with a pink ribbon near her desk.

"I..."A moment of silence passes while Sakura contemplates on what to say.

"Actually... someone left them for us," Sakura decides to share.

Sarada narrows her eyes at what she interprets as a blatant lie, then softens, realizing her Mama more than likely bought them for herself and is pretending they're from her Papa on this special day, since everyone makes such a big deal about it.

"Mama," she tries to encourage. "You know it's okay to get yourself gifts once in a while," she suggests. "Besides, I'm sure Papa would want that."

Sakura wants to correct her daughter, to let her know the peonies really are from her beloved husband, but that would only lead to curiosity, too many questions, and conversations she isn't allowed to have. Instead she settles on sharing a smile.

"If you say so, sweetie."

"I do," Sarada affirms. "And...well...if this brings Papa a little closer too you, perhaps every year we should make it a point to get some. What do you think?"

Sakura is touched with the sweetness from her baby girl. Such a beautiful heart." Sweetie, I think that's a great idea," she agrees, eyes glistening as her hand reaches out to cradle the peonies. It's not the same as having her Sasuke here, but knowing that they were planted by her husband for her as a gift, helps just a wee bit more to mend her loneliness and bring her a little closer to her love until he returns. Chocolate and Peonies. The idea really has a warm feeling to it. "Thanks, Sarada. I think that's a wonderful idea. Happy Valentine's Day, Sweetie!"

"Happy Valentine's Day, Mama!" Sarada replies back. "If Papa were here, I'm sure he would want to send his wish to you for a Happy Valentine's Day too!"

With that, Sakura nods and admires the blooms, making a plan to visit their special spot in the years to come on the 14th of February, until the day her husband can return home for good. Sasuke's Mission has been long, but she knows it won't last forever. One day he will come back to them, and when that day arrives, just like the peony, she knows lots of healing and love will surround them, finally making things happy and perfect once more at the Uchiha household. His gift today brought her reassurance, and with it, rekindled hope. Sasuke is and forever will be her beloved husband, and she holds close the promise he's making. In turn, she makes her own silent vow she will patiently wait as his wife, and with renewed excitement, greatly anticipates the day they will reunite, at long last.

~The end

Author's Note:

I am unsure if the Japanese character's meaning can be used this way, but for the sake of the story, I ask that you humor me. Also from what I understand Tadaima is an expression that means "I have just come back now."

Fun Fact: Legend really does allude that Buddhist Monk and Scholar Kobo Daishi initially introduced tree peonies to Japan. Furthermore, I read in Kamakura, Japan, some peonies really do bloom in February!

A special message from me:

I know this day can be tricky for some, so my hope is, no matter your situation, you'll take a moment to make this a special Valentine's Day for yourself. If your loved ones are near, make it a point to show you love them! If, however, they're gone, or your alone on this day, try to look within and discover that special piece inside of you that, like the peony, provides hope and healing. Love is a little brighter when you're good to yourself, and what better way to celebrate the day than to gift yourself with all the memories that make your life special. Additionally, I hope this story inspires you to never forget that a little kindness can go a long way. You may not always see it's effects, but they're there, and they do get passed along. With that said, to everyone who's made it this far, here's to wishing you a very Happy Valentine's Day!

In closing, I would like to send my thanks to: BloodPokemon101, mississippimudpiecraves, naash, Pixie07, WildMan98, Wintry Leen, and Yengirl, for participating in my Show Me the Love of Valentine's Day Challenge today. All stories submitted for the challenge can be found in my C2 account. For more reading pleasure, check them out! And while you're at it, please make an effort to spread the positive constructive review. Remember, it's your feedback that is the boost of goodness that keeps authors writing and sharing, allowing this site to be the best version of itself. Thanks everyone and take care!